Wild edges and flowers


Our place is in one of bays on the east side of the upper part of the lake. We’ve been there for ten years now. This is the first year we’ve noticed some erosion at the water’s edge. At first we thought it might be a muskrat. Actually it might be. But it also seems to be that speedboats and jet skis come into the bay and create wakes a lot more than they used to.

We decided to try a natural border at the water’s edge to see if maybe some hardy grasses and whatever popped up might help. The alternative, a rocky divide or a breakwall requires permits. A true natural shoreline is a wonderful goal and we might try it in the future. Check out the Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership. But there’s a neatnik in our family and she might have a hard time leaving everything all natural and messy. We are very careful, though, that we don’t end up putting chemicals in the lake. We don’t use weed killer on the lawn. Actually, if we did we’d mostly not have any lawn. Especially this dry summer the weeds were about the only green stuff in the lawn. And we even powerwash the house and docks without using any soap in the powerwasher. Even the biodegradeable kind takes more trust in chemistry than we have.

Here’s another view.


I’ll be darned. Look at all those wildflowers.If there were a wildflower that put fear into Canada Geese it might almost be perfect.

Steve picked a bouquet of wildflowers and a number of them came from our little slice of natural.


So, it looks like Queen Anne’s Lace. I’m no gardener, but I don’t think it it is. I think it’s actually Water Hemlock, with its plant clusters squashed some to fit into the vase. Water Hemlock is a perennial native plant. Common in wet pastures and along roads and ditches. It’s a member of the carrot family and has a long taproot that smells like a carrot and tastes like a carrot. Except, if this really is Water Hemlock, don’t be tempted. It’s described by Stan Tekiela in his book on Michigan wildflowers as “by far the most poisonous plant in Michigan.” Something quite like this did in Socrates and you don’t want to go that route. A more benign identification is that it might be Water a/k/a Cow Parsnip. Nah. I like the Water Hemlock ID better.


This big yellow guy, with some of its glory faded, is a Black-Eyed Susan. I think. Some call her Brown-eyed Susan, which would be more appropriate. Susan is in the Aster family. Nobody seems to know who Susan was. Or why this sunny plant bears her name.


This purple delicate flower is another tentative identification: Spotted Knapweed. If so, it’s a non-native nasty. It aggressively crowds out other plants and may even change the chemical nature of the soil to keep away the natives and favor its own seeds. That would make it an allelopathic, a plant that releases toxins to inhibit the grown of plant competitors. Steve managed to find one of the prettier views for photographing this one. The bract under the flower, that sort of holds the flower in place, is a primitive looking ugly thing.


This one, I believe, is Sweet or Spotted Joe-Pye Weed.There are a number of Joe Pyes in Michigan. They are a native plant. As the flower buds open, these small, fuzzy-looking delicate blooms appear. They are are hardy plants and the bloom lasts a long time. So, who was Joe Pye? All of my flower books say Joe Pye was a Native American “medicine man” in the 1700’s who travelled around New England teaching the settlers about the medicinal use of native plants. Joe Pye said his weed was a cure for typhoid fever, kidney stones, burns, and inflamed joints.


The one flower Steve and I know for sure is Dandelions. We are experts on Dandelions. So, I don’t think he was picking Dandelions for his bouquet. I’m not sure about this one, but I think it’s a Common Sow Thistle. Sonchus Oleraceus. They are common along roadsides. Their stems flow with a milky juice. But Steve doesn’t remember if the thing slimed him or not.


Next up is the lovely named Yellow Goat’s Beard, another member of the Aster family. They also go by the name of the Western Salsify. Who the heck makes up these names? We caught this one at just the right time. The flowers soon turn into fluffy big globe-shaped seed heads, like dandelions, and that’s how this plant spreads.

wildflower1_lowresHere’s the full effect.

Those little clusters of yellow flat button flowers are Common Tansy, Tanacetum Vulgare. It’s another member of the Aster family. I like their nickname: Bitter Buttons. Apparently its leaves have a strong bitter smell. I have quite a few allergies and decided not to do too much sniffing around the bouquet, so I can’t personally verify that. It’s a non-native. One of its folk uses is for, ahem, ridding folks of intestinal worms. It’s worm-fighting prowess is maybe why it was packed in funeral winding sheets and why people would get buried with tansy wreaths. My goodness. After this research we may leave the Common Tansy out of future bouquets. Also the Water Hemlock. Definitely the Water Hemlock.

To Jack’s Landing

Take M-32 east out of Hillman. From State Street, go 3.8 miles and turn right on Jack’s Landing Road. In another 5 miles or so, definitely not as the crow flies, you’ll be at one of the premier bass fishing floodings in the United States: Fletcher Pond. And Jack’s Landing Resort (“Cast out your vacation line”) is the gateway to a wonderful bass fishing adventure. A bit more on Fletcher Pond in a bit, but this post is mostly about getting to Jack’s Landing.

In mid-July the road to Jack’s Landing is enough to set your every allergy ‘ablazing. This road is making the pollinators very happy indeed. One farm in particular is a do-not-miss.


The fence rows are filled with Everlasting Pea. It’s a native European plant, lathyrus latifolius, and it’s taken to our neck of the woods in a big way. Everlasting Pea, also known as Perennial Pea, is a rhizome. It spreads with deep roots and forms a dense viney mat. But, if support presents itself, it can grow to 5-7 feet. In the background are big cylindrical hay bales just recently mowed.

Here’s another view of Everlasting Pea:Jacks2_lowres

Montmorency County, Michigan, can be a study in contrasts. That long winding road looks like it would lead to some peaceful pristine spot. Not quite. There’s a very sturdy metal gate across the road just beyond these fenceposts. And something that looked like chemistry and drilling seems to be going on where the road winds to the left.

And this sign hangs on the gate:


Hydrogen Sulfide. It’s a gas that’s heavier than air, very poisonous, corrosive, flammable, and explosive. Wow. I guess we’re lucky that it also smells like rotten eggs, so at least we will know if it’s released. We smelled nothing in the area that didn’t smell like it belonged, though.

Right next to the gassy lane, is a beautiful, incredibly well-kept home with acres of mowed grass, beautiful trimmed trees, and zillions of bluebird boxes. They’ve even made this novel use of one of their dead trees:


Someone is spending a lot of time tending their piece of the planet. So, so pretty.

Keep your eyes peeled after you pass this garden paradise.  On the right, you’ll find this 12-foot long conversation piece. Today it was just after some big long black tire skid marks in the road.Jacks12_lowres

There must be an interesting story to this. I don’t know it. Our local rocket has been leaning at this angle for many years. Guarding something. Maybe. Pointing to something. Maybe.

Let’s get this back to the sublime. Here’s another winding road on the way to Jack’s Landing.


More Everlasting Peas. Old Orange Daylilies and some Black-Eyed Susans. Here’s a close-up of the Peas:


I’m not sure what that yellow guy hiding in the background is. I didn’t notice it until Steve finalized the photo. Even the foliage is beautiful.

Check out both the pea and the daylily closer up:


About that daylily, Old Orange Daylily a/k/a hemerocallis fulva. Daylilies like these that are not true lilies (partly because they don’t grow from bulbs) have been cultivated in many varieties and colors. But these are one of the early cultivars. They are not wild, but since so many of them are growing by the side of roads, they might as well be. They aren’t native plants, but they were an early arrival. As the story goes, they traveled from the East along with settlers. Before that they traveled from Asia. They grow from a mass of roots and are so hardy they apparently got thrown in the backs of wagon and were planted and divided again and again among many generations of American gardeners. They are all over the country now. And Montmorency County, on the way to Jack’s Landing and Fletcher Pond, is as good a place as any to get an eyeful of these beauties.

So, sublime, ridiculous, back to sublime, and—on the way to Jack’s Landing–back to ridiculous:


This chicken, which seems to be made of fiberglass, sits in someone’s front yard. It is about ten feet tall. We have no idea why it’s there. There are no eggs for sale. And it’s not a farm. But some people mark their spot with tidy signs like “Bucky & Deb’s.” Some people name their spot with signs like “Harry’s Haven.” And some people have giant chickens.

By now you’re getting quite close to Jack’s Landing. A few more twists in the road and you arrive:


A big painted pike is one-half of the piscine pair that hang over the road and welcome resort visitors. And that’s Fletcher Pond in the background. Fletcher Pond is the 11th largest inland lake in Michigan, measured by surface acreage. The Alpena Power Company dammed the Thunder Bay River in 1931 to reserve water for its hydroelectric plant. The result is a 9000 acre flooding, complete with about 13 islands. It makes wonderful quiet nesting grounds for a variety of birds, including osprey. And did I mention the bass and pike yet? The bass are so plentiful in this lake that they practically just jump in your boat. We went there once to fish. They didn’t jump in our boat. They just jumped all around us and did the fishlips equivalent of “na, na, na, na, na.” They catch monster pike here, including through the ice.

Here’s a look at the Jack’s Landing Inn and restaurant:


The food is homestyle and familiarly good. Service is always very friendly. Pick a seat next to one of the windows with a bird feeder and be entertained by purple finches and hummingbirds. That’s a busy purple martin house atop the pole by the electrical boxes. The adults were flying over the pond, snatching bugs, and bringing them home to the young.

There’s a small campground and a few cabins to rent. This is the view looking toward the row of cabins.


There are places to lay your head. A well-stocked bait shop. And a place to clean all the fish you’ll catch (we won’t catch any, but you will).


Long Lake carnivore


Look what sprouted on the southern section (next to the shore) of the island in the lower lake: Sarracenia Purpera a/k/a the Purple Pitcher Plant. We’ve been rounding the island in our 14 foot Gillgetter or kayaks for ten years now. Long Lake continues to surprise.

The deep burgundy color before the petals unfurl may be designed to look like, well, raw meat. Check out figure seven in this article for confirmation of what we’ve got and for a good and somewhat disgustingly amazing discussion of how the Pitcher Plant attracts and digests its prey.

In addition to the look-like-raw-meat trick, it lures bugs like flies and ants partly with the alluring scent of its prior-trapped decaying prey. Waxy slippery surfaces inside this beauty eventually lead to a pool of water that then can’t be escaped because the plant hoses down its visitors and prevents even flies from just flying away. If the bug does escape the pool, it still has to climb steep leaves. Since flies can’t hover like dragonflies or helicopters, this doesn’t go well for them. And if bugs manage to escape the leaves, there’s still those downward pointing hairy bits. The exhausted bug eventually gives up, drowns, and get digested.

Apparently Purple Pitcher is a fairly common wildflower in the bogs of the northeastern part of the United States. I’ve never seen it though. Here’s more info on the Sarracenias. And some great photos. Once I figured out what they were, I couldn’t stop reading up on them. But I’m not planning on adding any to my tabletop bouquet.

Wild Blue Flag Iris


Meet Iris Versicolor a/k/a Blue Flag Iris a/k/a Northern Iris. It was growing in late June right where all the books say it should be growing, along the water, in clumps of tall, sword-like leaves. These were on the west side of the upper lake, sort of midway between the island and Ghost Bay.

These iris grow from rhizomes, thick roots that grow horizontally. The rhizomes contain iridin, a toxic substance that has been known to poison people and animals. You’d have to eat the rhizomes, though. I’m not tempted. And the sap, well it can cause dermatitis.

So, don’t eat Blue Flag Iris. Don’t touch it either. Just let your eyeballs enjoy it.